Despite growing up in the land of jorts, socks with sandals, puka shell necklaces, and other hideous faux pas, fashion and self-expression snuck through and captured the heart of Alyssa Key at a very young age, 5 to be exact. It started with simple preferences such as the constant wearing of a favorite dress or using absolutely nothing but black and white hangers. Alyssa simply wanted to be … Alyssa, so when she was old enough to earn an allowance, Key began to purchase her own clothes. Over the years, she would slice and dice these clothes as well as friends’ clothes, all while over-accessorizing “just to be that person,” she says. In her early 20s, she became a business professional, working a 9-5 job with her nights and weekends dedicated to fashion photography and some of Jacksonville’s first fashion shows, but it wasn’t enough.
“I yearned for more. I needed to say what I had to say with something that everyone could use, so I chose fashion,” said Key, who went She on to launch and maintain a highly-successful clothing line known as “Love Brigade” in America’s fashion mecca, New York City.
Jacksonville is home for Key, but she left the city over 10 years ago bound for London where she attended Istituto Marangoni, an Italian fashion school. She wanted to acquire an abundance of global knowledge and resources to bring back to the States. During her stay in London, Key began brainstorming about what she wanted her product to be, and unlike many designers, she wanted a brand that pointed to “our era of humanity” rather than herself, toward people “heading toward dreams and passions and expressing who they are at any given opportunity.” Key made a list of synonyms for passion and army, connected the dots a bit, found an available URL, created a logo, and “Love Brigade” was officially born.
Love Brigade has been called many things ― high-end streetwear meets ready-to-wear brand, hipster essential, and urban chic ― but Key prefers to describe the wear as “hella-dank-awesomesauce.” Each clothing collection released by Love Brigade features pieces driven by an inspiring story basking in experiences of the heart and authenticity as well as items that are musically-motivated. The goal is to always to create a culture for all types of people to grab onto. They accomplish that because each collection is based in positivity, love and the arts. Though rich in inspiration, it is a fairly inexpensive line, including tees, jackets, hoodies, denim, dresses and accessories ranging from $28 to $150.
Beginning in 2006, a group of partners and Key ran two stores in Brooklyn, N.Y., an online marketplace, and sold to buyers, such as Nasty Gal and Karmaloop, as far away as Japan. The venture was wildly successful, even amidst the recession. However, in 2012, Key had an urge to revisit what Love Brigade was and what they want to accomplish. From there, she decided to completely close up shop, move back home to Jacksonville, and embark on a one-year sabbatical.
“I always knew I would come back,” she said. “It was just a matter of when. I can pretty confidently say that from now on, Jacksonville will always be my base.”
Key decided the time was right to bring the venture back to Jacksonville. Intrigued by Jacksonville’s growth and renaissance, she knew she did not want to miss out on the excitement.
During her time at home, Key has completely re-envisioned Love Brigade, using One Spark to jump-start and showcase the new concept to the world. The new Love Brigade will consist of what Key calls “mission statement” pieces.
“Everything we put out will have some type of message on it or in it. It’s what people want. They want the brand, our mission, our message,” she said.
That message and mission will make the project more than just a clothing line. It will be a movement. A movement that is all about love and self-spirituality, embracing happiness and sharing it with others, not just verbally, but visually. The relaunch will feature a selection of clothing and gifts for men, women and children. The children’s line will consist of three platforms: Baby Brigade, Kid Corps and Troop Teen.
Since her return to Jacksonville, Key has housed her operations at C.O.R.K., a multi-studio warehouse for artists, designers and more in Riverside. However, a noticeable change for Love Brigade will be the absence of a physical store. Customers will only be able to purchase items online or at one of the many stores and boutiques that choose to buy the items wholesale.
Beyond the clothing, Love Brigade’s footprint will be seen in the streets through the love-drenched outreach and charity events Key hopes to frequently conduct with the updated brand. Her desire is to present encouragement to people that will in turn allow them to follow their dreams, no matter how daunting the task.
Home for a year now, Key has perspective to offer on the city that she loves and brags so much about, Jacksonville.
“I’m glad to be a part of this movement that I always dreamed about for our city. Keep doing what you’re doing, Duuuuuvaaallllllllll!,” said Key, adding the city has gotten considerably more fashionable over the years, and she only hopes to see fashion programs and classes offered in town. “The nature of the city and beautiful homes are much more alluring at this stage in life as well. I love what entities like One Spark, the Cultural Counsel and my favorite magazine, Void are doing for the city.”
So is Love really all you need? Maybe not, but it will make you look and feel awesome. You can expect the new Love Brigade in early winter 2014. Be sure to check Love Brigade for more.